Last edited 08 Dec 2020

Native file

A native file is the default file format that a software application is designed to work with. The software uses the native file format to arrange data, i.e. to create, save or open files.

A 'foreign' file is one that is unrecognised by the application, and so will be unable to be displayed or, if it can be opened, may be displayed improperly due to the incorrect translation of data.

Many software developers create native file formats which can initially only be used by their own software. But if the software or application then becomes popular enough, other developers may release software that mimics or extends its functionality, they may also use this file format, and so it can become standard in that particular field of use.

Files can often be saved in formats other than their native formats. For example, the data in a Microsoft Word document file is customised and optimised for be read only in Microsoft Word, and have a .doc or .docx file extension. However, files can also be saved in formats such as .txt, .pdf, and .rtf.

In other cases, applications may be able to open files but not save them in the same format, due to licensing issues or perhaps due to the feature not yet being implemented in the application’s programming.

Similarly, CAD and 3D modeling software used by architects and designers can save and read files from other similar software or in standard file formats. For example, the native file format for AutoCAD is .dwg, but files can also be produced in an interchange file format DXF.

Proprietary file formats are those that are only readable by their own, and other permitted, software. The use of proprietary formats may hamper interoperability if project team members are using different types of software.

Non-proprietary file formats are vendor-neutral which means they can be read and edited by any suitable software. Often these are open source, with international collaboration for their development.

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